Tekla Warehouse: A new kind of BIM storage
“Structural engineers and detailers who work on construction projects may use components, materials and parts from 50 companies, and normally to get a model part, they must visit each company’s webpage. In Tekla Warehouse, we can publish all components in one place where our customers will conveniently find what they need, and these components stay updated since we have control over them,” says Richard Morsink, Managing Director of HALFEN b.v., a construction product manufacturing company with offering in Tekla Warehouse.
Essentially, Tekla Warehouse is a free online Building Information Modeling (BIM) storage. It includes what is needed for modeling a building project with Tekla Structures, the BIM software: custom components, parts, profiles, materials like steel and concrete grades, rebars, meshes, shapes, applications and templates. The 3D items listed in Tekla Warehouse have all the relevant, up-to-date product information for construction - not just geometry.
This means models made with the Warehouse maximize accuracy - they are fully constructable and have up to date material information. Any fabricated part or profile for building can have its 3D model in the service.
Tekla Warehouse is a new service, but already building materials companies such as Hilti, Peikko and HALFEN share their products there. And it's having a noticeable effect.
Old problems to be solved
The construction supply chain has been almost completely contractor-driven. Procurement has been very error-prone, and comparing suppliers hard. One construction project might use products by 50 companies. Sometimes those suppliers would not have the right part, and manufacturing the part or finding another supplier took time. Or the contractor just used what was on hand, which might not be entirely suitable.
If planning is based on documentation, it may lag behind the actual products that are available and changing continuously. A product specified by the designers may not be available, or even similar to the real product once it arrived. Design decisions could escalate to construction, which caused a lot of waste as new, more suitable parts had to be ordered. Important information was often missing.
The warehouse advantage
Tekla Warehouse keeps accurate, up-to-date records on the products of the suppliers. "Warehouse components are real," says Richard Morsink, Managing Director of HALFEN b.v. "They include lots of information and can be added directly into the Tekla Structures models."
When real parts are used in the constructable models, fabricators and contractors get the highest possible accuracy with precise material information for quantity take-off, planning and procurement. If an engineer has an updated component easily at hand, he or she is less likely to use an outdated model version that just happened to be conveniently listed in the local catalog.
The modeler does not have to spend time modeling parts like anchor bolts or concrete embeds. With Tekla Warehouse, they can specify the very exact part in the 3D model and drawings. Suppliers can showcase their products in a highly-detailed, simulated building environment. From the user's point of view, Tekla Warehouse is different to other data storages in that it is not a separate tool: It has been seamlessly integrated with Tekla Structures to make access and sharing information between users very easy.
Better schedules and stronger supply chains
A designer can use Tekla Warehouse to produce high-quality models efficiently, while project managers can ensure that everybody involved in the modeling process uses the same parts and when applicable, the same user-specific Tekla environments.
The Warehouse has been designed to help suppliers share product information with Tekla users by providing not only the geometry of the product, but its full properties. Parameterized products feature all data (product specifications such as product numbers, article description, dimensions, material information, etc.) that can be used for the engineering process, calculation, project preparation and material quantity take-off. Not only does everybody use the same modeling information, but exact, up-to-date information maintains accuracy and speeds up the whole building process from virtual construction to actual building.
Tekla Warehouse can be used across any company's computer platforms. Because it is a global tool, accessible from anywhere in the world, it allows easier starting and sharing of projects with other offices and external partners. For example precast concrete fabricators can create their own applications and company or project-specific libraries that are available to project teams wherever needed.
Among the most interesting aspects of Tekla Warehouse are how it affects supply chains, production schedules and costs. Fully up-to-date content from suppliers from the beginning of any project can remove some potential delays: Time is not lost waiting for parts, there is less waste caused by ordering parts never used, and everybody involved in the project can see the same visual information in 3D and related properties. Procurement and scheduling improve.
Products available immediately around the world
"In Tekla Warehouse," says Richard Morsink, "we can publish all components in a place where Tekla users will conveniently find what they need." When a designer chooses a specific product through Tekla Warehouse early in the project, it appears in the 3D construction model in Tekla Structures, illustrating clearly how the product does what it should.
It is also easy to monitor customer interest, identify what users like and what is put into models. "In Tekla Warehouse, we can see how people download our products," says Morsink.
So, HALFEN and other manufacturers can watch which products are inserted into models to be used for construction later. The Warehouse gives manufacturers access to a global network that enables information about their products to spread around the world. Real parts ready for workflow help their customers and provide a market advantage: The users of the products can plan their projects with any actual product listed in Tekla Warehouse from the very start.
How does it work?
Complexity is a risk to any digital service as anything too complicated will only be used by technical experts and high-end specialists, which will keep the number of users low. In contrast, an easy-to-use system that improves business and benefits projects attracting users. Tekla has worked to keep the service simple.
Manufacturers upload their own model products to Tekla Warehouse. For example, a supplier – say, a precast concrete fabricator might want to add a connection plate. The system uses the plate's external geometry as a native object. It can be created with Tekla Structures, but it doesn't have to be, as Tekla Warehouse takes the most common 3D model formats such as DXF, DUG, IFC and DGN. A basic SketchUp model file of the plate is sufficient. Tekla Warehouse transforms the file so it can be used in Tekla Structures.
Next, a modeler looking for a connection plate then searches Tekla Warehouse to find one. The supplier's plate appears in the search. In addition to its surface geometry, the plate has data attached, such as product numbers, article description, material type, cost and so on. This makes the choice –and entering the product information- more complex but more accurate, as the designer can check that the plate satisfies structural requirements as well as budget when creating the 3D model in Tekla Structures.
According to HALFEN’s Richard Morsink, bringing their products into Tekla Warehouse requires certain work as the producer uploads their own products. HALFEN has noticed how Tekla Warehouse supports project workflow. They operate as a project partner with other companies, and the system has allowed them to easily share product information between their organizations for the duration of each construction project.
HALFEN is a company with eyes set to taking advantage of technology. "We work in close connection with our customers, and their requirements push us towards innovation - and BIM, too," says Managing Director Richard Morsink. "We think that you can always improve your processes." They first started modeling with Tekla three years ago, and now utilize BIM in calculations and production as the model information flows into their ERP system. This pushes the efficiency of their own production. However, Mr. Morsink says the idea of Tekla Warehouse would appeal even if they were not using BIM yet.
For the manufacturers, Tekla Warehouse ensures that only updated content is available to customers and integration with Tekla Structures supports designers, their customers.
Preparing for the future workflows
Already many companies in the construction industry, like Hilti, Peikko and HALFEN, realize that BIM brings strong advantages to building design. "BIM will flood into the construction industry in different countries like a tsunami," says Richard Morsink. "In the Netherlands it started to really grow some years ago. When this happens in your area, you'd better be prepared."
Tekla Warehouse brings a new element to this rising BIM workflow, touching both the construction product manufacturers and the builders. The service brings fresh, information-rich products ready for the workflow directly from their manufacturers. Because the service is completely free, the threshold of trying it out is low.
Find Tekla Warehouse at warehouse.tekla.com.